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Thursday, April 30 2020

By: Mike Ferguson, Contributing Writer.

Winter Haven - The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the United States and the world.

That is also true for the sports world. Since the second week in March, major college sports, as well as the NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball, have all come to a grinding halt. The virus has created a realm of uncertainty for professional and college athletes alike, including those from Polk County.

Sports Stops

Jack Twyford is set to enter his sophomore season as an offensive lineman at Yale University. The Winter Haven High School graduate said it wasn’t long after the Ivy League canceled its basketball tournament that he realized how serious the virus was.

“I remember people getting pretty mad about the basketball decision,” Twyford recalled. “The (Centers for Disease Control) said we were 14 days behind Italy’s model for a pandemic outbreak. That’s when I knew this was serious.”

Brendan Gant, a former safety at Kathleen High School in Lakeland, will be a sophomore for Florida State in the fall. Gant said the impact was unexpected.

“We didn’t expect it to happen,” Gant said. “But our coaches prepared us for whatever.”

Persevering Through Adversity

Both Twyford and Gant were hoping to take on bigger roles for their football programs. For both, spring practice was canceled.

Twyford was on spring break when he received the news that there would be no spring football. Yale was scheduled to begin its spring immediately after spring break. Twyford appeared in two games for the Bulldogs in 2019 and looking to push for more reps as a sophomore and perhaps a starting spot.

“I’m definitely confident in myself and my abilities,” Twyford said. “Spring was a chance to really prove myself to my coaches. You can never have enough reps in practice.”

As for Gant and the Seminoles, spring practice had already gotten underway when it was canceled. Gant played all 13 games at FSU in 2019 as a freshman but was used often at linebacker. For 2020, he had planned to return to his natural position of safety and perhaps work his way into the starting lineup.

"Coming into the spring and getting back into the groove of playing safety was important for me,” Gant said. “I was expecting to take on a bigger role. It was tough.”


Fans often forget about the “student” portion of what it means to be a student-athlete. With the coronavirus outbreak, changes have not only had to be made to football regiments but academic ones.

Gant noted that most of his scheduled classes were already online. Since he arrived in Tallahassee from Lakeland, Gant said he’s taken school every bit as important as football. Forced to do more on his own, Gant has tried to stick to his normal class and study schedule.

“I try to keep the times the same,” he said. “I just made (academics) my main priority. You just have to focus in a little more.”

During this time of uncertainty, Gant remains in Tallahassee. Twyford, however, has gone from New Haven back to his home in Winter Haven.

Classes at Yale, he said, have gone away from letter grades for the spring semester and are now strictly pass/fail. Twyford said he’s unsure of how summer courses will be affected.

“Three or four of my classes were lectures,” Twyford said. “I have a pretty obtuse schedule.”

Team Activities and Staying in Football Shape

Although FSU players and staff have been practicing social distancing, Gant said they can work in very small groups to stay in shape. With a first-year head coach in Mike Norvell, Gant added that players and coaches are doing what they can to meet regularly.

“Our coaches have been preparing us for moments of adversity since they got here,” Gant said. “We want to be a player-led team, so we’re pushing each other to stay on top of stretches and exercises. With a new staff and a new scheme, we have to stay on top of things. We’re trying to keep everything the same as much as we can.”

Gant added that under the current situation, it will be on the players as individuals to work hard and improve.

“I just feel like this is the year of the athlete itself,” he said. “There are no excuses really.”

Being away from campus and with gyms closed back home, Twyford said he’s just using what’s available to him to stay in football shape.

“I have a weight set in my garage – a power rack,” he said. “I sometimes have to get creative to find a way to work the muscles. There’s a certain degree of creativity that goes into it.

“I’m taking it as an extended vacation, only I have to do my schoolwork and work out,” Twyford added. “I’m cherishing the time with my family.”

Will There Be Football in 2020?

With the COVID-19 pandemic having caused the NCAA to end spring and unfinished winter sports, there are questions whether or not fall sports, like football, will take place. Among the items on the table are the prospects of playing in empty stadiums or pushing the season back to later in the fall or the spring.

“I didn’t know it would be to this scale,” Twyford said. “I thought I’d be back in Connecticut by April. If we’re allowed to go up in the summer, I plan to take classes and work out with the team.”

Both Gant and Twyford seemed optimistic about football in the fall.

“I know this situation is serious,” Gant said. “I just feel like, at the same time, we can’t keep the world on lock forever.”

As far as empty stadiums go, Twyford joked that wouldn’t be much different for many Yale games.

“It’s my best guess that we’ll have football in the fall,” he said. “If you’ve ever been to a game outside of Harvard-Yale, we play pretty much without crowds.”

About the Author: Mike Ferguson currently serves as the public information officer at the Haines City Police Department. Mike earned his bachelor's degree from Florida State University in 2009. Mike and his wife Jennifer live in Davenport, Florida with their two children.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 09:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 30 2020

Content Provided By Organization.

Lakeland - Peace River Center, a non-profit behavioral health and victim services organization that serves more than 22,000 individuals every year, is hosting virtual sessions during Mental Health Awareness Month.

“Now more than ever it’s important to talk about mental health, be aware of the resources, and share with our friends and loved ones who might be struggling,” said Ileana Kniss, Director of Development and Community Relations at Peace River Center (PRC). “We have transitioned our awareness events to virtual platforms and invite the community to join us for these meaningful conversations.”

The awareness activities and virtual sessions include:

   * May 1 at 8:30 a.m. Virtual Chat with Mental Health Professionals: Four PRC professionals will discuss mental health, treatments, and services. Attendees can ask questions and will walk away with tools to thrive in this ever-changing world.

   * May 6 Wear Green Day: Community members are encouraged to wear green and upload their photos to social media with the hashtag #Green4PRC to show their support of mental health and the organization.

   * May 13 at 10:00 a.m. Depression and Anxiety in Children and Teens: Learn more about depression and anxiety in children and teens such as general symptoms, risk factors and what you can do to help a child or teen experiencing depression and anxiety.

   * May 20 at 2:00 p.m. What is Mental Health Recovery? What does it mean to be in mental health recovery? Learn more about that and how to access resources in our community such as Club SUCCESS and Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services.

These virtual sessions are free to attend and those interested can visit -registration/ for details and to register. Attendees are encouraged to submit questions ahead of time, but they will also have a chance to ask the mental health experts their questions at the end of each session.

About Peace River Center:

Peace River Center is a licensed and accredited, non-profit provider of mental health, substance use, and integrated medical services serving Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties. Peace River Center provides options for people struggling with mental health and addiction, for children and adults coping with the trauma of abuse and violence, crisis intervention for people in acute need, and housing and community support and integration for people affected by domestic violence or whose recovery requires more support and time. Peace River Center offers inpatient, outpatient, home-, school- and community-based services, telehealth and mobile programs to individuals, groups and families. Peace River Center’s dedicated and compassionate staff of more than 400 operate 36 programs out of 27 locations and provide 24/7 emergency psychiatric response services to the community through our mobile psychiatric Crisis Response Team. In FY2019, Peace River Center had contact with and provided services to more than 22,000 children, adolescents, adults and seniors. For more information visit

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 09:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 30 2020

By: M.C. Reyes, Editor-in-Chief and Member of the Editorial Board.

As we continue the fight against the spread of the Coronavirus, we would like to take this opportunity to do a tribute to those who, day and night, put their lives in danger to save other people's lives... and those are our men and women in medical gowns.

These men and women wake up every day ready to give their 100 percent to help others fight this horrendous virus. They leave their families behind to do the job that they love, even when knowing that the risks of them getting infected are extremely high. If that's not considered a heroic act, I am not sure what is.

As we mentioned on our front page, May 12 is international nurses day, and we, at the Northeast Polk Gazette, would like to give our sincere thanks to the front-line health-care nurses who are putting their lives on hold, and at-risk, while providing care for those in need. Without you guys, the chances of survival of those infected with the virus wouldn't be as promising as they are. You guys are making a difference in people's lives... in families' lives and that will never go unnoticed.

The truth is that thanks to each one of you, and the amazing job that you are doing, we have been able to stay positive while "sequestered" at home... because we know that you guys are there for those who need help.

We know that the fight is not over and that it may be months before things go back to normal... or, at least, to the "new normal," but we have faith that you guys will continue staying strong so that you can do your job to the best of your abilities. But, we also pray God that he gives each one of you the physical, mental, and emotional health that you guys need to be able to deal with what comes your way.

So, without further ado, today we say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

THANK YOU for the sacrifices you make every day, especially during these challenging times.

THANK YOU for your dedication, commitment, and courage.

And, THANK YOU for the service you are providing to the patients suffering from the virus. You are saving countless lives and making a difference in our communities. And, again, your dedication and sacrifices are not going unnoticed.

For that and more, we want to say to each one of you... THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS!

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 09:07 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 30 2020

By: Staff Writer.

Winter Haven - For this month's community leader of the month, we want to feature a community doctor who is working hard to provide sports medicine services to her clients, while at the same time, volunteering in the community.

Meet Dr. Michelle Henne.

Dr. Henne is the head physician for Polk State College, Warner University, and All Saints Academy She’s also actively involved in the Junior League of Greater Winter Haven. She has worked with Warner University by developing its medical policies and procedures for their athletes. She has also been a consultant during Warner’s development of its COVID-19 policies and procedures.

Dr. Henne is a Medical Doctor graduating as a Gold Humanism Honor Society member from the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa. She also did her undergraduate training at the University of South Florida as part of an accelerated program.

After medical school, she completed her residency at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg and her sports medicine fellowship in Orlando. She has worked with high school, college, amateur and professional athletes including those with the MLS, NWSL, Washington Nationals, Kissimmee FireFrogs, a minor league affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, LPGA and Symetra Tour, FINA (International Swimming Federation), FIFA (international soccer federation), US Soccer, and USA Water Ski and Wake Sports.

She moved to Winter Haven to provide specialized care in the community where her husband grew up. She enjoys the opportunity to bring her specialized skills to our community, including local high schools and universities.

Dr. Henne is published in many journals including the American Journal of Orthopedics, Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, and the 5-Minute Clinical Consult. She has presented at numerous venues, such as the American Medical Society of Sports Medicine, the orthopedic conference at Orlando Health, and the 33rd Annual Colin J. Condron Care of the Sick Child. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering as a member of the Junior League of Greater Winter Haven.

Visit for more information on what Dr. Henne and her team can do for you.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 08:54 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 30 2020

By: Staff Writer.

Polk County - Each year, the International Councils of Nurses (ICN) leads the celebrations on International Nurses Day, which is traditionally held on May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

This year’s celebrations will be extra special because the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as The Year of the Nurse and Midwife and because it will be the 200th anniversary of Nightingale’s birth. To mark the occasion, ICN is planning and coordinating a wide range of activities throughout the year.

The theme for 2020, Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Nursing the World to Health, demonstrates how nurses are central to addressing a wide range of health challenges. It will encourage nurses and the public to celebrate the big day, but also provide information and resources that will help to raise the profile of the profession throughout the year and attract a new generation into the nursing family.

ICN President Annette Kennedy said she is expecting 2020 to be a momentous year for the profession:

“Having the Year of the Nurse and Midwife coincide with Florence Nightingale’s bicentennial raises the exciting prospect of nurses finally being recognized for all the good they do.

All around the world, nurses are working tirelessly to provide the care and attention people need, whenever and wherever they need it.

We want this year’s International Nurses Day to highlight that nurses are central to the delivery of health care, that nurses are making an invaluable contribution to the health of people globally. Nurses, because of their unique role of working with people from birth to death, need to be involved in health policy."

In addition, the world’s National Nursing Associations will be organizing local events throughout the year to celebrate the profession and demonstrate its unique position in the health-care landscape.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of more than 130 national nurses’ associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally, ICN works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 08:42 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 30 2020

Content Provided by the Organization's Website.

Lakeland - As part of our "In the Spotlight" section, for this edition, we would like to feature an organization that is dedicated to offering outpatient therapy services, client-centered individual therapy, group treatment, and family therapy to those who need them the most. These services are offered in the Polk, Hardee, and Highlands counties.

Meet the Peace and River Center Victim Services.

Peace River Center is a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to engage, restore, and empower individuals in our community to reach their fullest potential. The vision of the Peace River Center is to be a Center of Excellence for building emotional wellness. The Peace River Center therapists work with prospective clients to create an individualized treatment plan to help support the client in his or her health, wellness, and recovery goals. Therapists may also provide referrals, as appropriate, for specific Peace River Center services such as Targeted Case Management, Psychiatric Evaluations, Adult Recovery Services, and Child Specific services.

Peace River Center was founded in the late 1940s in response to the community’s concern for the emotional and psychological well-being of children. Over time, Peace River Center gradually expanded its services to include adults. A significant growth period for the Center came after the 1973 passing of the Baker Act, which is Florida’s Mental Health Act, enabling them to establish a community mental health center as an alternative to treatment at the State Hospital.

In the late 1970s, Peace River Center opened the first of two domestic violence shelters, and in 2013 we added a primary care Wellness Clinic. Our Lakeland Crisis Campus opened in January 2018.

With 27 locations, 30 programs, and accreditation from The Joint Commission and licensed by ACHA and DCF, Peace River Center is one of the largest behavioral health agencies in Florida. PRC will never deny services to anyone based on their inability to pay. PRC will provide discounts to patients based on family size and income.

Do you need to contact the organization?

If you are in immediate danger, please call 911. If you would like to contact their crisis response team, you can use their 24-hour crisis line: (863) 519-374, or their toll-free line: (800) 627-5906.

The Crisis Response Team is a mobile outreach service that is designed to provide immediate crisis assessment, intervention and counseling, linkage and referral, and crisis follow-up contact. All in an effort to reach a resolution for adults and children who may be experiencing any type of emotional crisis, which can include: suicidal intentions, self-destructive behaviors, or acute, severe, and intense emotional distress. The Team is also equipped to provide suicide prevention awareness, critical incident stress debriefing, and stress management.

You can also reach their crisis stabilization unit at their 24-hour crisis line: (863) 519-3744 or at their business line: (863) 519-3747.

The Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) is a secured 30-bed public receiving facility for Florida's Baker Act. The CSU provides short-term, intensive, psychiatric stabilization and discharges planning services to individuals in need of emergency treatment either voluntarily or involuntarily meeting the criteria for Florida’s Baker Act. Individuals who experience a crisis are psychiatrically evaluated, observed, and stabilized on the Unit for a period of up to 72 hours for the purpose of returning them to a less restrictive level of care. Services offered at the CSU include medication management, psycho-education on illness, group support, discharge planning and referrals, as well as, family education.

For more information about this amazing organization, visit their website at

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 08:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 13 2020

By: Carolane M. Camacho-Santana, Michael's mom.

Puerto Rico - I remember the day I saw Michael for the first time. My grandparents and I stopped at a local pet-shop and I saw him with other cockatiels in a cage. As soon as I approached the cage, they all started screaming and whistling with excitement, except him. He was so concentrated on eating that he didn’t even bother to look at that strange creature that kept whistling and talking at them. He instantly stole my heart and I took him home with me that same day. Slowly, and with a lot of patience, I gained his trust and we have been inseparable ever since.

Having this little guy with me has taught me to respect and appreciate life, no matter how small or insignificant things may seem. His personality and behavior never ceases to amaze me and has shown me how smart and fun he is. The way he learns is impressive. He imitates every sound he hears... songs, rhythms, car alarms, and even my cell phone, which can be a little confusing for me. Michael is very special, and having him in my life brings me peace and happiness. Once again, I’m thankful for him and for all my pets for bringing so much joy into my life.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 01:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 02 2020


Polk County - Inspired by public conversations following the #MeToo movement on how to build understanding and prevent sexual harassment, assault and abuse, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) launched, back in April 2019, the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). This year, SAAM is celebrating its 19th anniversary. The theme for this year’s campaign, “I Ask”, helps empower all of us to put consent into practice and shares the message that asking for consent is a normal and necessary part of sex.

NSVRC is calling on individuals and communities to commemorate SAAM and show support for survivors by wearing teal, the symbol of sexual violence prevention and the official color of SAAM, on the April 2nd Day of Action and throughout the month. By wearing teal, supporters can drive further awareness around sexual violence prevention and the importance of consent, respect and supporting survivors.

“Asking for consent is a concrete and powerful way to ensure that everyone feels safe and respected,” said Yolanda Edrington, Executive Director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “The ‘I Ask’ campaign is a great opportunity to normalize conversations about consent and to empower everyone to ask and respect the answer.”

The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence, educate communities on how to prevent it, and bolster prevention efforts throughout the year.

In addition to publishing toolkits for individuals and organizations to plan and implement a SAAM campaign in their local communities, NSVRC has developed resources on learning how to recognize consent, giving and getting consent online, teaching consent early, and understanding how power dynamics impact consent. Hundreds of SAAM events are expected to happen in communities throughout the country, and NSVRC has compiled a list of SAAM events happening nationwide.

“Sexual Assault Awareness Month isn’t just about raising awareness. Our ultimate goal is prevention,” said Laura Palumbo, Communications Director at NSVRC. “Through the ‘I Ask’ campaign, we’re sharing the message that asking for consent not only ensures safe, consensual sexual experiences, but it also helps create a wider culture of respect that everyone can practice daily and in everyday situations.”


The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) is the leading nonprofit in providing information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence. NSVRC translates research and trends into best practices that help individuals, communities and service providers achieve real and lasting change. The center also works with the media to promote informed reporting. Every April, NSVRC leads Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a campaign to educate and engage the public in addressing this widespread issue. NSVRC is also one of the three founding organizations of RALIANCE, a national, collaborative initiative dedicated to ending sexual violence in one generation.

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Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 07:52 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 02 2020


By: Mike Ferguson, Contributing Columnist.

Davenport - As the oldest girl with four brothers, Layla Nickerson grew up wrestling and roughhousing with her siblings.

What she wouldn’t have guessed is that it would one day pay her way through college. This season, Nickerson, 17, became Ridge Community High School’s first female wrestler to earn a scholarship. She’ll also become the first member of her family to attend college.

“I did cheerleading and I was like, ‘OK, it’s not for me’,” she said. “My older brother liked (wrestling) and told me to try it. “(Getting a scholarship) was definitely the last thing on my mind. I started looking (at colleges) in my junior year of high school.”

Wrestling against boys at the 138-pound weight class this past season, Nickerson had two offers and signed her letter of intent in February to wrestle at Iowa Wesleyan, a Division III school starting its women’s program next season. Despite being the only girl on a team full of boys at Ridge, Nickerson said she wasn’t treated any differently by her teammates.

“They treated me like I was one of them,” she said. “They knew I was strong enough to handle it. I didn’t feel uncomfortable in any way. Other than having more muscle mass, nothing was different between me and them.”

Nickerson said one of the things that appealed to her about Iowa Wesleyan was how popular the sport was in the area. The state’s two Division I teams in the sport, Iowa and Iowa State, have combined for 31 national championships. Former Iowa State wrestler Cael Sanderson won four straight individual national championships from 1999 to 2002 and is widely considered the greatest college wrestler of all-time.

As for women’s wrestling, Nickerson said she anticipates that it will continue to grow in popularity. Although she wrestled against boys, girls wrestling held state championships this season in Florida. Girls wrestling is sanctioned in more than 20 states and many hope that by next season, it will be a sanctioned sport by the Florida High School Athletic Association.

“I was recently at state (championships),” Nickerson said. “There were over 100 girls there. It’s going to start growing and growing as a sport.”

At Iowa Wesleyan, Nickerson said she wants to major in human resources and become a social worker. As far as wrestling goes, Nickerson said she wants to be the best she can be and hopes to inspire other girls in the process.

“That’s the main reason I joined,” she said. “My team has inspired me a lot. My mom has been a big supporter. The inspiration that I’m trying to leave is that you can push yourself to be just as good or better than male athletes. I just want to keep pushing it and try to be the best.”


About the Author: Mike Ferguson currently serves as the public information officer at the Haines City Police Department. A native of Polk County, Mike previously spent nearly five years as a full-time reporter at The Ledger. Mike contributes to a number of outlets and has work appearing in the Associated Press, Yahoo,, Athlon Sports and Sports Illustrated online among other publications. Mike earned his bachelor's degree from Florida State University in 2009. Mike and his wife Jennifer live in Davenport, Florida with their two children.

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Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 07:45 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 02 2020

By: Anonymous.

I picked up a copy of your February 2020 Gazette, not long ago, and read the letter from the Winter Haven resident, regarding what to do when tragedy threatens one's Faith.

In no way am I a theologian, but I'd like to offer my thoughts, in full realization that the answers offered, may not offer much satisfaction. I'm reminded of something that my favorite professor once said: "I'll help you in any way I can, but I'm not a psychiatrist, a lawyer, or a banker."

To get to the heart of the matter, many years ago, a theologian wrote a helpful book entitled "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." Basically, it echoes Matthew 5:45, which says that the Father which is in heaven.... sendeth rain on the just and the unjust."

In other words, when you cry out, "Why me, Lord?" the answer is "Why NOT you?" To this writer, it angers me when I hear religious people say, with a touch of pride in their voice, something to the effect that the Lord was watching out for me, and made the tornado miss my house. In my opinion, that misses the whole point of our existence on this earth. There is an old episode of the TV show MASH, where Father Mulcahey was dealing with frustration and anger in his own life and came to realize that God didn't put us here to receive pats on the back. "He put us here so that He could be here Himself."

So, when tragedy strikes, and sooner or later, it strikes all of us, we are obligated to take care of one another. In a similar vein, our own parents knew better than to grant us every wish when we were small, but they didn't falter in their love for us. And we, as small children, did not falter in our love for our parents, even on the occasions when they could not totally assuage our frustration and disappointment. To quote a different episode of MASH:

Dr. Freedman (speaking to a shell-shocked patient who thought that he was Christ): "Is it true that God answers all prayers?"

Patient (Holding back tears): "Yes. And, sometimes, the answer is No."

Thank you for letting me express these thoughts.

About the Author: The author of this piece would like to remain anonymous.

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Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 07:34 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 02 2020

Content Provided By: The Organization's Website.

Lakeland - When a few key Watson Clinic physicians realized that a great number of Polk County community members were medically underserved, with no access to healthcare, they began to look for a solution. Led primarily by these physicians and the Watson Clinic Foundation, Lakeland came together to find a unique way to meet the healthcare challenges of the greater Lakeland community.

Inspired by the Volunteers in Medicine model started by Jack McConnell on Hilton Head Island, Dr. Glen Barden brought the idea to Lakeland and the dream became a reality.

On Valentine’s Day 2001, Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine opened its doors in the historic John Cox Grammar School on Lakeland Hills Boulevard. Today, LVIM is an independent nonprofit organization governed by a local Board of Trustees.

At LVIM, patients gain a medical home and have access to doctors’ visits, diagnostic testing, lab tests, ultrasound scans and x-rays at no charge. More extensive diagnostics, such as CT’s and MRI’s, are also available through a network of participating ancillary providers who volunteer their facilities, staff and professional time also at no charge to LVIM or the patients. Additionally, LVIM operates a full-service pharmacy, funded by United Way of Central Florida, filling approximately 30,000 prescriptions a year. The Prescription Assistance Program within LVIM secures almost $3 million of brand name prescriptions for patients at no charge. At LVIM, the treatment is free; the care is priceless.

What is the VIM Model?

The Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Model promotes a “Culture of Caring” while emphasizing the use of medical and non-medical volunteers. Being inclusive and welcoming to all is the foundation of the VIM Model. The “Culture of Caring” recognizes the strengths of those in need and respects their dignity. It prompts the idea that the manner in which people are treated during a visit to a VIM clinic is as important as the medical care they receive. Volunteers in Medicine clinics offer their services free of charge to patients and do not bill third-party payers. VIM Model

LVIM is a proud member of the Volunteers in Medicine Alliance, a network of 89 health care centers in 27 states who follow the VIM Model. As a member of the alliance, LVIM has access to shared best practices, discounted group purchasing programs, educational material, webinars and a variety of other program offerings. Members also have ongoing access to national Volunteers in Medicine Consultants. Membership is provided without charge and members are required to participate in the annual national survey.

The Problem

There are 83, 362 individuals in Polk County who do not have health insurance*; that’s nearly 12% of our total population.

72,359 of these individuals are adults between the ages of 18 and 64. They are parents, artists, servers, and health care workers. They are students, self-employed entrepreneurs, lawn care technicians, and more!

LVIM exists to fill the gap in healthcare coverage for those who are working and uninsured. Our patients do not qualify for government assistance but cannot afford the price tag of high-cost health insurance premiums.

Whether the company they work for doesn’t offer insurance, or their family can’t afford what insurance is offered, families are left with nothing and no backup plan for when things go wrong. Without assistance, families rely on the emergency room as their healthcare provider, the bills rack up, often resulting in personal bankruptcy. Or, worse, these individuals are caught with few resources and often feel they have no choice but to let chronic illnesses go untreated, often resulting in worse outcomes than if treatment had been available.

That’s where Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine steps in.

*Data provided by Polk County Health and Human Services Indigent Health Care Department

The Solution

LVIM provides FREE, primary medical, dental and mental health care to those who are working and uninsured in Polk County, FL.

With the help of more than 4, 800 volunteers and 500 volunteer doctors, dentists, and ARNPs, since 2001 LVIM has done the following:

       *  MORE THAN 25,019 PATIENTS have been served at Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine.

       *  MORE THAN 483,753 PATIENT VISITS have been provided by LVIM!

       *  MORE THAN 431,356 PRESCRIPTIONS filled for our patients at LVIM.

       *  MORE THAN 24,337 RADIOLOGY EXAMS given at LVIM.

       *  MORE THAN 121,616 LAB VISITS conducted by our LVIM team.

       *  MORE THAN 5,864 MAMMOGRAMS provided by LVIM.


Volunteers are very important at Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine – in fact, they are our greatest asset! Since LVIM opened its doors in February, 2001, we have enrolled over 25,019 patients in 483,753 patient visits, filled over 431,356 prescriptions and performed over 24,337 radiology exams. Over 5,000 volunteers and 500 doctors, dentists and ARNP’s have donated their time.

But, as you can see, with this large volume of patients, it takes skilled people of all backgrounds and professions to make everything run properly. You don’t have to have a medical background to volunteer, as there are many other opportunities to serve the uninsured of Polk County and give the gift of good health to LVIM’s patients.

At LVIM, it takes everyone doing what they do best to provide the best care to our patients. No matter your skill set, we have a job for YOU!

LVIM medical providers, clinical and community volunteers provide care through operational and administrative support of the clinic. ALL volunteers are essential to the success of LVIM and operate as a team to accomplish the vision and mission of the clinic.

For more information about this organization, visit their website at

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Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 07:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 02 2020

By: Staff Writer.

Haines City - Back in 2017, When Aidan Kenny was 12 years old, he and his parents attended the Formula One Grand Prix in Texas. During that trip, Aidan played a selection of video games all related to car racing, which was a first time for him. That experience ignited a huge interest for Aidan in the racing sport, and his interest progressed from there.

Fast forward a couple of years, Aidan has participated in numerous competitions around the nation. Some of the events that Aidan has been a part of include races at Orlando Kart Center Track, AMR Motorplex Homestead in South Florida, Biloxi Mississippi, New Castle Motor Sport Oak Indiana, Oakland Valley Race Park in New York, and in Las Vegas last year. Most recently, Aidan was part of the ROK Florida Winter Tour at Ocala Grand Prix, in which Aidan placed 12th (of 31) in Round 2 of the 2020 Florida Winter Tour Championship.

For Aidan's parents, his passion and commitment to the sport haven't come unnoticed and they support him 100%. "Aidan has my 100% support to achieve his dream, but I have told him he’s in a very, very competitive and expensive sport. He will need sponsorship and, to obtain sponsorship, he needs to be progressing all the time. Motor racing is tough, and I have asked him to think of plan B, but his passion is racing and that’s where his focus is right now," said Garrett Kenny, owner of the Balmoral Resort in Haines City, when we asked him if he would support Aidan if he decides to pursue a career in car racing, or if he would rather him concentrate on a different career path.

For Aidan's mom, the concerns are somehow different. "At the beginning, my wife was very nervous and apprehensive, but the more I saw Aidan drive, I could see he had a passion and determination and I always say to him before he goes out just to be safe, but to also be fast," said Mr. Kenny.

For Aidan, there seem to be no concerns. "Like any young kid with a fascination for speed, I think this is a great way to participate in team racing and driving at high speed at the same time and testing my limits," said Aidan.

Aidan and his parents are aware that, as a young race car driver, Aidan has a long way to go, but his passion and determination will likely help him succeed.

What's next for Aidan, you may ask? Well, according to Aidan's dad, Aidan has set his sight on formula 1 racing, but in order to achieve this, he has to start at formula 4 and, all being well, he will work his way up.

We have no doubt that he will achieve his goal and we can't wait to see how far he will go.

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    P.O. Box 1114
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